Monday, May 26, 2008

Corrupt Fiji Army Trying to Entrench Rule

Charter to entrench army rule
Last updated 5/26/2008

The interim government says its proposed People’s Charter paves the way for democratic elections in March 2009, but critics say it will simply entrench military rule.
National Federation Party general secretary Pramod Rae said people were confused about the Charter.
“No one knows what will be in the Charter but it is now clear that the military will be the guardian of this document,” said Mr Rae.
Speaking at Nadoi village in Rewa last week mlitary commander Interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama told the villagers that there would be no election in March next year if the People’s Charter was not accepted by the people.
The commander stressed that the military would ensure the political party that won the next election, scheduled for next year, upheld the principles and ideals in the charter
Cdre Bainimarama said despite mounting opposition from many provinces in Fiji, the government would continue its work on the formulation of the Charter.
The Charter, he said, was an initiative of the military council and had been handed over to the military backed interim government to put it in place and the government would like to see everyone in Fiji give their full support to it.
The government’s uppermost preoccupation is to promote the Charter claiming it is the way forward for Fiji, despite mounting complaints from the people about soaring food and fuel prices.
In a democratic society there is no excuse for military coups, and the 2006 coup was probably a mistake. Such military intervention has created even more problems. People turned on one another and political division deepened.
Soon after his appointment as Interim Prime Minister, the military commander said he would like see true democracy in the country and the vehicle to deliver this was the Charter.
PM Bainimarama said through the Charter, coups would not happen as the military had stepped in to manage the country since December 2006 because of poor leadership.
A lot has been said about the Charter but as the government increases its awareness campaign to solicit the support it needs, most of the Fijian provinces are against it.
We know for sure that the Charter will make changes in the Electoral Act and abolish communal voting.
The Charter will put in place new criteria for eligibility of candidates to contest future general elections.
Also the role of the military will be clearly defined.
The military is to be the guardian of the Charter to make sure that all future democratically elected governments make policies under it.
He also said the Great Council of Chiefs would not sit next month if there was no quorum.
According to Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL) national director Peceli Kinivuwai the proposed Charter is a political initiative of only a few people.
It is now becoming clearer that the Charter will give prominence to the military involvement in the day to day activity of the elected government.
As Mr Rae puts it, “the Charter will entrench military rule and also will be used as an excuse to carry out coups.
While PM Bainimarama who is a co-chair of the National Council of Building a Better Fiji (NCBBF) says the Charter will end the coup culture, the other co-chair Archbishop Petero Mataca appears to think otherwise.
In a question and answer with the Fiji Sun he was asked: Do you believe that the People’s Charter will stop further coups?
The Archbishop replied: “The People’s Charter is not God who alone can guarantee no further coups.”
The interim government with the full backing of the military in its bid to establish true democracy in the country has also put in place a new order.
This new order appears to be nothing more than Napoleon’s rule over his Animal Farm, where cronies and leader worshippers were given larger cakes.
People are still in the dark on how the Charter will be legalised. This is a major reason why many are against it especially when the 1997 Constitution remains the supreme law of the nation.
PM Bainimarama said this at the United Nations General Assembly: “The Peoples Charter, once formulated and adopted, will provide the strategic framework or fundamental foundation within which the Interim Government, and also successive elected governments, will be expected to operate. In the current absence of an elected Parliament, there is the issue of legitimacy and mandates. To deal with this, the Interim Government is willing to consider putting the draft Peoples Charter to a referendum to get the mandate of the people for the fundamental changes, including changes to the Constitution of Fiji, as may be considered necessary and appropriate.”
Former Vice President Turaga na Roko Tui Bau Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi in his address at the Annual Pacific Co-operation on the topic “The Challenges In Building A New Fiji” in Wellington, New Zealand on May 15 said: “Those who favour the Charter process that has been initiated by the National Council for Building A Better Fiji, are fond of saying elections will not solve any of our underlying problems. That is not their purpose. Elections create the basis for legitimacy. It is a mandate from the electorate. They begin the process of re-establishing democratic governance. That is why it is critical for there to be political engagement. It matters not whether it is through the informal process sponsored by the Commonwealth Secretariat (Comsec) or the more formal joint UN/Comsec initiative proposed by the Interim Government. If one takes the interim regime at its word, the Constitution is intact. It cannot be amended by referendum or presidential promulgation. Therefore the next elections will have to be held under the present electoral system. All the more reason to encourage political engagement, dialogue and agreement. Subsequently, the elections could then be held with the new parliament then amending the Constitution in accordance with what had been agreed.”
One of the framers of the 1997 Constitution Dr Brij Lal said: “The whole Charter process if flawed and it will fail. It does not have any moral or political legitimacy. It is not derived from the freely expressed will of the people. It is the brainchild of a few well-heeled retired expatriates who think designing the future of a country is like a consultancy. The charter cannot be binding on future governments. The charter is not neutral. The only true charter Fiji has is the constitution. It is not a flawless document; it can be changed or amended following proper procedures laid down in the constitution. With significant segments of the community opposing the charter initiative, an expensive failure looks like the only outcome. The principles intended for the Charter may be noble, but the process is deeply flawed.”
Another concern about the Charter is that the military will be its guardian.
It will surely entrench the rule of military in the country.
Even though there will be a democratically elected government, it will not have the democratic freedom to freely run the country.
In fact it gives power to the military to decide its fate if it does not adhere to the Charter.
Another immediate concern is the role of the military.
The role of the military council in giving advice to the government is questioned because the 1997 Constitution is still in place.
Confusion has also arisen because of the difference in interpretation of section 112 of the constitution between the military and the ousted Laisenia Qarase government.
According to Mr Qarase the RFMF has misinterpreted section 112 which specifically states that the RFMF has no role in the running of the government.
The argument from the RFMF is that section 112 (1) states : “The military forces called the Republic of Fiji Military Forces established by the Constitution of 1990 continues inexistence.”
Their interpretation is that section 94 (1) establishes the RFMF and it is only proper that Section 94 (3) automatically comes into existence because it defines its role
Section 94 (3) states: “It shall be the overall responsibility of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces to ensure at all times the security, defence and well-being of Fiji and its people.”
Surely there is some merit that section 112 (1) of the 1997 Constitution incorporates section 94 (1) and (3) of the 1990 Constitution. This can only be clarified by the High Court.
The military is standing by its own interpretation and that is why it is very active politically.
“It is a legal fact that the military has no say in the administration of the government,” said Mr Qarase in an interview on February 5.
True democracy cannot be practised in Fiji if the military rule is entrenched in the Charter.
President Nelson Mandela once said: “It is important to note that even if we could terminate all forms of tyranny everywhere, we would have to be aware that true democracy cannot be imposed nor transplanted. It must be homegrown and a product of consensus and inclusivity within any given country. That is why we disagree on the matter of Iraq. Such disagreements are not uncommon among friends. In fact, they are a mark of strong, candid, and honest friendship.”
People’s rejection of the Charter must not be seen as a rejection of the leadership but should be sees as act in a good cause.

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